Gas Leaks

Natural gas is sent to our homes and buildings through pipes under the street. in Massachusetts, some of these pipes are over 100 years old and leaking.

Gas Leaks

  • Can cause explosions. In 2014, eight people were killed in a gas leak explosion in Harlem and 70 others were injured. Twelve people were hurt in another explosion in Dorchester.
  • Kill trees by suffocating them at their roots. Trees breathe oxygen through their roots. Gas in the soil from a leak displaces oxygen. The cities of Brookline, Hingham, Milton, Nahant, and Saugus have all taken legal actions against National Grid totally over $2,000,000 in damage to public shade trees.
  • Emit an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas. A 2014 Harvard/Boston University study found 2.7% of the gas in the state is leaked into the air.  Because the gas is so potent, this small amount is equivalent to 10% of our state’s entire greenhouse gas inventory.

    HEET map of utility-reported gas leaks in Worcester

  • Cost us money. To add insult to injury, the utilities don’t pay for the leaking gas. Instead, they pass that cost to us, the customers, by factoring it into the price we pay every month on our bills.
  • Fixing Massachusetts gas leaks pays for itself. We save the money we’d otherwise spend on gas lost to leaks.
  • Waste a valuable fossil fuel that is harvested through fracking. According to National Grid, 80% of the gas used in MA comes from Pennsylvania, an area known for hydraulic fracturing, or fracking. Fracking pollutes the water, air, and land, endangering surrounding communities. The process also adds chemicals and draws elements from underground that are carried into the transportation and distribution systems.

No Need to Fix It

Until 2016, utilities were not required to fix any leak—no matter how large—unless it was considered potentially explosive.  Thus, many of the leaks in the Greater Boston area were first reported decades ago and still have not been fixed.

A leak on the corner of Park Drive and Beacon Street in Boston went unrepaired for 30 years before it was fixed.

The Solution

A large gas leak in Jamaica Plain, MA

In 2016, researchers found that just 7% of all gas leaks are much bigger than the rest, emitting half of all the gas pouring into the atmosphere from a leaky distribution system.

Within a few months, a Massachusetts law was passed, mandating that the gas utilities fix these leaks of “environmental significance.  Fixing these leaks will dramatically reduce emissions and save money in the fastest, most efficient manner.

However the gas companies, having always had to worry only about safety and not emissions, had no proven method of identifying the largest leaks.

This was where HEET came to the rescue with the Large Volume Leak Study, finding a fast, reliable and scientifically proven method of identifying the worst leaks so they could be fixed.